Sore knees; decluttering my workspace

I hurt my knees and toes a few weeks ago, being too aggressive with a new natural-movement thing. Recovery from this sort of injury is best accomplished with a mixture of rest and gentle movement, and that’s what I’ve been doing. My toes got better pretty quickly, but my knees have continued to hurt.

Gentle movement in the form of walking did seem to help, but as the soreness persisted anyway, I started ramping up the amount of rest, figuring that was what was needed. My knees would get better and then get worse again. Extra rest didn’t seem to help. It was very frustrating.

Yesterday it occurred to me that the problem might be the way I was resting: I was spending extra time sitting at my computer.

In particular, I was spending a lot of time tucking my legs back under the chair, resting my feet on two of the chair’s wheels. When I wasn’t doing that, I’d stretch my legs out, but my left leg (the one with the persistently sorer knee) was constrained in how much it could stretch out, because I’d put the subwoofer for my computer speakers under the desk on the left.

So, this morning I made two changes. First, I moved the subwoofer out from under the desk, freeing up space to stretch out my left leg. Second, I lowered my chair, making it easier to put my feet flat on the floor, and less tempting to tuck my legs back under the chair.

I’d had the chair height set with the screen in mind, after some neck issues seven or eight years ago. Those had been resolved by getting computer glasses (I had been tipping my head back to read the screen through the progressive part of my glasses), so I feel free to rejigger the space to address other issues.

Not being an idiot, I’m also trying to spend less time at the computer today, and will go on doing so until my knee is all better.

On a related note: One of the things I’m less able to deal with during the dark days of winter is clutter. Unfortunately, I’m also less able to get my ordinary decluttering tasks done. In the past, this has led to a vicious cycle of clutter making me more depressed and depression making less able to tidy up my workspace. Doing my other workspace reconfiguring left me with a bit of momentum, so I carried on with some preemptive late-fall workspace tidying. Behold:

Workstation 2015That grey box at the far left is the subwoofer, no longer under the desk.

My screen desktop is a photo taken in the Lake Park Prairie Restoration, about five minutes walk from my house. Here it is on Flickr:

Snowy late-fall day at Lake Park Prarie

It’s a beautiful image and well worth clicking through to embiggen.

I share a lot more photos in my Flickr photostream than I end up using in blog posts. After you click through to admire that one, check out some of the others as well.

On the move

Moving is a big disruption and a lot of hard work.

I’ve moved enough times to know all about the big disruption, but it turns out I’d had a skewed perception of the amount of hard work involved.

As a software engineer, most of the times I’ve moved it was because I had a new employer, and my new employer paid for the move. A guy (or two or three) would show up and pack all my stuff in boxes, and then a couple of guys with a truck would load everything up, drive it to where I was going, and then unload the truck into my new place. Still a big disruption. Still a lot of hard work—but only a fraction of the total work involved.

I’ve done a few local moves without movers—with friends or relatives to help—but I now realize that it was back when I had a whole lot less stuff than I have now.

Turns out, I had no idea how long it would take to pack everything up, doing it ourselves. As I said, in the past it was always a day’s work for three people or less. Jackie started packing weeks ago, and I now see that she was very wise to have done so. If we hadn’t started until last week, or even the week before, we’d be nowhere near ready—and utterly exhausted. As it is, we’re just about ready, and only moderately exhausted.

She did the same thing the last time we moved, but that was back when I had a full-time job, so most of the packing happened while I was at the office. I knew she was working hard, but I didn’t know how hard.

Both last time and this time we’ve hired movers to do the loading, driving, and unloading. It’s a very modest amount of money. (A low single-digit multiple of the cost of renting a truck and buying pizza and beer for your friends who help—assuming you still have friend young enough to fall for that.) Plus, the movers show up with a dolly and do in two or three hours what it would take you and your friends all day to do.

Our summer place
Our summer place

Anyway, we’re about set. We’re already living part-time at our summer place. (That’s what we’re calling it now, to distinguish it from where we’re calling our new place—where we’re hoping to end up in the fall. I like the sound of it, like it was an estate in the Hamptons or a at least a cottage on a lake.) We have things well-enough in hand that I’m confident that we’ll be ready in advance of the mover’s arrival.

We’ve been able to do things at a sufficiently moderate pace that we were able to do a lot of decluttering as we went along. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore not only accepts donations of old electronics, for $10 they’ll send a truck and a couple of guys to load everything up and haul it away. We’ve also made repeated trips to the Idea Store, which takes all manner of things that can be used in student art projects, and uses the profits to fund enrichment programs for the schools.

Less clutter is nice. Very nice.

Decluttering: More than a dream

workspace-2013Jackie and I have been working on decluttering the study. We’ve been at it for 3 days now, off and on, and we’re making great progress.

My own focus in the initial phase has been on my workspace. I’m pretty pleased with where I am just now.

I almost didn’t post this picture, as it looks little different from other recent pictures of my workspace, but (on the theory of “pics or it didn’t happen”) I felt like documenting the fact that I’ve actually restored my workspace to its desired uncluttered state.

The area behind me is still not up to being documented. Anyone who had seen it any time before three days ago would be impressed by how much progress we’ve made, but there’s still stacks of boxes, a stack of books, and other clutter.

I think the clutter had been weighing on me, looming up behind me, making it harder to write. Hopefully, this will help.

Decluttering

Dad sorting through old files

I’m just home after four days spent with my dad, working on decluttering the house where we lived during my high school years.

It was a good trip. I forget between times what a good model my dad provides for working: focused sessions of work, interspersed with breaks for exercise, snacks, and caffeinated beverages. I tend to focus too long when the work is interesting and not long enough when the work is tedious. My dad is better at that than I am.

Slightly related to breaks and snacks, we also got to restaurants in both Scotts and Vicksburg. As best I can recall, Scotts had no restaurant when I lived there. Now it has two. I remember ever eating in Vicksburg one time, so they must have had a restaurant; I barely remember it and don’t remember any others. Now they have multiple restaurants—you could eat lunch there every day.

Good trip up and back on Amtrak—I always enjoy traveling by train. A vast improvement over the nightmare that air travel has become.

My visit turned out to serve as a catalyst for additional decluttering efforts. My dad’s wife did a bunch of work getting stuff taken to the dump and Jackie did a bunch of work decluttering the study at home. So, three households have made significant decluttering progress, all thanks to my trip. I’m so proud.

Oh, and we saw a Pileated Woodpecker! They’ve apparently almost gotten common around Kalamazoo.

Dreams of decluttering

I sometimes have fantasies in which everything I own is lost or destroyed. I imagine the sparse, spare spaces that I’d create to live and work in. Even though it would be very bad to lose some of my things—family pictures, financial records,  art, mementos of youth and travel, books by family members (and a few with my own work)—it somehow seems liberating to imagine the workspace, sleeping space, living space that I’d create if I were starting from scratch.

For some reason, I never fantasize about the hard work of decluttering.

I’m thinking about doing it, though. We’d gotten eight bags of books set aside to take to the used bookstore just before Jackie broke her wrist. But that’s really just a small step. We’d need to take three times as many just to get all the books that aren’t on shelves.

Still, I think I’m ready to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff. The idea of a room without clutter is becoming more than just an abstract goal. It’s becoming something I yearn for.